My stomach fluttered as I rolled over from an exhausted night of sleep. It seems curious, to have a tiring night of sleep, but sleep does not come easily to us now. My reasons are different than my husbands; his evening battle I wish upon no one, mine I wish to give only to my worst enemy, I suppose.
That weekend morning, before the web of the night cleared from my brain, I inched over to him, held him close and said, “I love you and we need to go to the support group.”
I rattled on senselessly for another minute explaining, in circles, the why and how come and why. I kept talking because I was scared of his response. After I quieted, he just took a breath and nodded, said okay.
That was it.
It was 3 1/2 weeks away. It seemed a millennia until that Wednesday at 6:30. They days went slow and the nights came too fast. Eventually it arrived and we headed north.
Neither one of us said much, but you could feel nervous anticipation between us. I spent the hour driving up north telling myself we didn’t need this, that it wasn’t a big deal and it really wasn’t necessary. I’ll bet you a dollar Brad was steeling himself, ensuring he could provide support and love and service to “the people who need it.” I don’t share this like it’s a bad thing either. His hesitation and how he navigates this fragile side, has strength too: to protect himself he wants to help others…
I parked the car. Jitters became shakes and I started to choke on the knotted yoke inside my throat. My mind was reeling me backwards.
What are we doing?
Why are we even doing this?!
This is the stupidest fucking idea you’ve ever had!
But my legs took me forward through the hospital doorway, into the elevator, down to the basement.
We met in a basement.
At a hospital.
Of course we did.
No windows, harsh lighting. About as cliched as an AA group in church I’m sure.
We were greeted with strange faces in a large room…so many of them just, staring blankly. Not with hate or curiosity though. We were greeted (warmly) by a facilitator. My ears started to fill with that rushing sound when blood runs to your head. Brad asked me something and I nodded fiercely at whatever it was and took the clipboard and a pen and gasped for air as I sat down. The energy in that basement was…overpowering. There was so much devastation and love and I was swimming in it. I held my breath and looked down at the form.
Name of Child:
Date they blah:
How blah blah blah:
Blah blah blah blah:
I couldn’t write. Pen hovering over the form, I looked to my right and a sweet lady, about 80 or 90 was next to me. “hello, I’m blah blah” she said, “mhmh,” I grunted. “my first three children blah blah blah,” she continued…
I got dizzy, shifted in my seat and pleaded with my eyes at Brad. The room started to spin and I panted, trying to catch my breath. The tears spilled everywhere and snot flung out of my face.
All we did was walk in and sit down on a goddamn chair and I’m already a mess.
I can’t do this. I can’t do two hours of this.
I can’t. I won’t. I can’t.
I shifted again and raised from my seat(gettingthehellouttahere)…then they started.
It was the best two hours I’ve experienced in quite some time.
Sometimes I need to remind myself that expectation is often different that reality. I wound myself up so tightly that I had gotten myself into a tizzy unnecessarily.
They ended up breaking us up into smaller groups. I was very appreciative of that.
I have never, in my life, been in any one room where there was so much compassion, heartache and love just moving in and out and around us all. Tears came, anger too…so did laughter though. And understanding. Our facilitator was incredible.
So much of what I do for work revolves around the need to be understood my others (which is different than needing to be right or needing others to agree with oneself). To have that connection of understanding, to hold someones hands and hear them say, “I understand,” is something we both were starved of and needed desperately.
To look over at Brad and see him embraced by another father clasping his hands around his neck, leaned in and said, “I’m so glad you came tonight, I know your pain. I understand how you feel,” and to see Brad nod, and say, “I know, me too,” well, that was worth it all.
We came back together as a larger group as the evening closed, in that large fluorescent hospital basement. It wasn’t as frightening and cliched in the end. The faces weren’t blank but instead pink and flushed with a new kind of exhaustion, damp and nodding and smiling occasionally.
We all shared a bit of love to send out into the universe and slowly but surely we all went home. They reminded us that we did deep work that night and they weren’t kidding. I felt kind of, hung over the next day. I also made sure to set up the group meeting on our recurring family calendar.
Listen, if you’re reading this because you’ve lost a child or you’re a sibling, a grandparent, a step-parent, or are in a weird category like me, you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain by going to a meeting.
You know that isolation that happened/is happening after your child died? That feeling like, NOBODY gets it? They can only sympathize? Sometimes that sympathy leaves you feeling more isolated than ever. It’s not meant to…it just does.
With TCF groups, they empathize. They know. They don’t want to know…but they do…and they want you to know they understand…they extend their hands and love to you.
I don’t forecast these faces leaving my memory banks anytime soon and I do anticipate friendships will develop. These are kindred hearts and minds colliding if not for anything than to take grief (our new word for love) and manifest its beauty and push it out into the world.
***On December 11, 2016 TCF is hosting their worldwide candle lighting. This is an important night for bereaved parents. Now believed to be the largest mass candle lighting on the globe, the 20th annual Worldwide Candle Lighting, a gift to the bereavement community from The Compassionate Friends, creates a virtual 24-hour wave of light as it moves from time zone to time zone. TCF’s WWCL started in the United States in 1997 as a small internet observance, but has since swelled in numbers as word has spread throughout the world of the remembrance. Hundreds of formal candle lighting events are held and thousands of informal candle lightings are conducted in homes as families gather in quiet remembrance of children who have died, but will never be forgotten. To learn more about the annual worldwide candle lighting event, click HERE.